Bowling Green VA Clinic hosts first ever veterans appreciation cookout

The Bowling Green VA Clinic has been in this community for almost four years now. They help take care of veterans in a variety of medical ways, but today they did something new and different for all of the veterans in the southcentral Kentucky area.

"They gave everything," said Bowling Green VA Clinic worker and cookout organizer Penny Ritchie. "Some gave everything like their lives. This is nothing to do to them in comparison what they’ve already done for us."

What the VA Clinic decided to do was host its first annual Veterans Benefit and Appreciation Cookout as a way to thank all the former servicemen and women who live in the Bowling Green area.

"We got together and decided that we needed to give back," Ritchie said. "There are times for veterans to have special events, but we wanted to create our own."

The idea for the event, and the way it was put together, was well received by the vets in attendance.

"Very appreciative. Very appreciative," said a former marine corps veteran. "They do a good job out here."

The cookout had chicken, hot dogs, burgers, chips and all the normal fixings at these kinds of events, and it was completely free to all veterans and their families. The inaugural event also provided an opportunity for vets from different branches, and different generations – both young and old, to interact with each other and share stories from their days in service. For the vets, they said having that chance to connect with others who went through the same things as they did was very important to them.

"These days, people respect veterans more these days than they did when I was in," said the same former marine.

"We figured this would be a good way to introduce everybody together," added Ritchie. "That’s why we partnered with the community to bring everybody to one spot."

The other purpose of the event was to gather local business or groups that help veterans in some manner, and show the community that these resources exist for those who have spent time in the military. 

"That’s why we also invited the community," Ritchie said. "There are so many benefits for our veterans that they do not know about."

For a first-time event, the cookout had a tremendous turnout of veterans, their families, and groups from the community, and Ritchie said she’s looking forward to seeing how much bigger and better they can make this event in the years to come.